TOPICS > Politics

Mugabe Agrees to Share Power Under New Zimbabwe Deal

BY Admin  September 15, 2008 at 10:40 AM EDT

Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai, Thabo Mbeki; AP

According to the terms of the deal, opposition rival
Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change will become prime
minister.

Outside the Harare convention center where the
signing took place, thousands of supporters of the rival parties threw stones
at each other and several hundred broke through the gates into the sprawling
grounds. Police fired warning shots and set dogs on the crowd, which calmed
after the initial clashes.

The crowds later cheered the deal by Mugabe,
Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, who leads a breakaway faction of the MDC.

The agreement followed weeks of tense negotiations
to end a deep political crisis compounded by Mugabe’s disputed re-election in a
widely condemned vote in June.

“This agreement sees the return of hope to all
our lives. It is this hope that provides the foundation of this agreement that
we sign today, that will provide us with the belief that we can achieve a new
Zimbabwe,” Tsvangirai said after the signing ceremony.

Zimbabweans hope the agreement will be a first step
in helping to rescue the once prosperous nation from economic collapse.
Inflation has rocketed to over 11 million percent while millions of residents
have fled to neighboring southern African countries.

But long-simmering and bitter differences between
the two sides and the nation’s worsening economic collapse are expected to put
the power-sharing deal under intense pressure.

Mugabe, 84, has been in power since independence
from Britain in 1980. He went from being praised as an independence hero to
being vilified as an autocrat. He and Tsvangirai, 56, have been enemies for a
decade, and Tsvangirai has been jailed, beaten and tried for treason — charges
that were dismissed in court.

But on Monday, the three smiling Zimbabwean leaders
exchanged copies of the agreement and shook hands in front of South African
President Thabo Mbeki, who brokered the deal, and other African leaders.

“I’ve signed this agreement because I believe
it represents the best opportunity for us to build a peaceful and prosperous
democratic Zimbabwe,” Tsvangirai said, according to the BBC.

Mugabe made clear he would not tone down his attacks
on Western countries such as former colonial power Britain. He accuses them of
backing the opposition to drive him from power.

“African problems must be solved by Africans
… The problem we have had is a problem that has been created by former
colonial powers,” Mugabe said after the signing ceremony.

But Mugabe added: “We are committed to the
deal. We will do our best.”

Under the deal, Tsvangirai will chair a new council
of ministers supervising the cabinet while Mugabe will remain president and
head the cabinet.

The deal is expected to split control of the
powerful security forces that have been key backers of Mugabe.

The president, a former guerrilla commander, is
likely to keep command of Zimbabwe’s strong army, but the MDC wants to run the powerful
police force. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF will have 15 cabinet seats, Tsvangirai’s MDC 13
and Mutambara’s splinter MDC faction three seats.

Tsvangirai said the government’s first priority
should be addressing hunger.

The scant harvest this year has made it difficult
for many Zimbabweans to feed themselves in what was once the region’s
breadbasket. In addition, Mugabe’s government in June restricted the work of
aid agencies, accusing them of siding with the opposition before the run-off
vote. The ban was lifted last month, but aid agencies say it takes time to gear
up.

Before the ban was lifted, U.N. humanitarian
agencies had predicted the number of Zimbabweans who will need help to stave
off hunger will rise to more than 5 million by early next year.

Western countries are still keen to see how the deal
works in practice, but the European Union said Monday it stood ready to bring
aid to Zimbabwe if the new government took measures to restore democracy and
the rule of law.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband welcomed
the agreement but said its details would be studied carefully.

“The new government needs to start to rebuild
the country. If it does so, Britain and the rest of the international community
will be quick to support them,” he said in a statement.